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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 08/12/2011

Fire from Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp may blow smoke on D.C. Saturday, reducing air quality


Smoke streams southeast from Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp Wednesday. ( NASA )
A bolt of lightning ignited a large fire on August 4 in the dry grass and brush of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in extreme southeast Virginia. Through Tuesday, the fire had consumed 3,200 acres reports NASA. When its smoke blows north Saturday, the Dismal Swamp fire may generate dismal air quality in Washington, D.C.

In the image above, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on Wednesday, prevailing winds from the northwest fanned the smoke out over the North Carolina Outer Banks. This weekend, with a wind from the south, some of the smoke heads in our direction.

NASA cautions: “Perhaps the greatest threat posed by the Lateral West Fire is the dense smoke is it producing. Smoke can damage human health. It irritates the eyes and respiratory system and causes low visibility.”

Indeed the air quality forecast for Saturday in D.C. is code orange for particle pollution - indicating the air is likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

And we may have bouts of smoky air for quite a while. Reports NASA: “Because of the difficulty in fighting this type of fire, it will likely burn until at least six inches of rain falls in a short period of time, said fire managers.”

Helpful link: Health information about smoke in the air.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 08/12/2011

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